Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Exploring the Greater Ranges

It has been 2 months since James and I walked out of the Khane Valley in Pakistan's Karakorum Range so it's about time I fill you folks in.

Before getting into the story and events of the expedition, I’d like to mention that this trip was inspired by the death of our good friend and climbing partner Cory Hall who was killed in a climbing accident in Peru. In honor of Cory’s contagious sense of adventure, we decided to team up and put together, in the best style possible a Cory Hall worthy adventure! This involved buying Royal Enfield motorcycles in Delhi, riding them to the India/Pakistan border, traveling by bus to the Karakorum, climbing in the mountains, traveling back to India to collect our bikes again and work our way toward the Indian Garwhal for more climbing and biking before heading home.

Here is the story.

On September 13th, 2015 James Monypenny and I (Max Fisher) crossed the Wagha Border from India into Pakistan and for the next month traveled north into the Karakorum by motorbike, bus, jeep and foot to explore and climb in the Khane Valley.
Below is an account of our experience traveling and climbing in Pakistan.
I was excited to get out of India but unsure of how I would feel in Pakistan. It wasn’t long before I felt really comfortable. In Muslim culture a guest is considered a gift from god, so as a foreigner you a treated very well. People often buy you food and help you hassle free. This hospitality followed us throughout the country.
The Khane Valley is located approximately 1.5 hours up the Hushe River Valley by jeep. Once there you will find exceptional hospitality and porters to help carry your food and gear up to base camp. You can even get a camp chief if you want!
Speaking with the local’s we learnt that we were the 8th expedition to climb in the Khane Valley. There is so much in this area that remains unclimbed.
We moved up the valley and established our base camp at 3800m. This location has been used by previous expeditions and is known as Boulder Camp and has
After we got settled in we went out exploring for potential objectives as well our main objective “Tangra Tower.” Walking up the goat trail to the glacier I was think, “wow, this is so similar to Patagonia but we are already higher then Fitz!” Laughing I mentioned this to James since he and I climbed Fitz together a few years ago. We saw numerous objectives for alpine climbing during our exploration and approaching Tangra saw a several lines that could go up the 900m south face.
That night we were both excited to move higher into the valley and get an advanced base camp set up so we could get out climbing. However, there was a different plan ahead that we had little control over. The next day James started feeling sick. Eggy burps = Gardia. So, instead of moving up, James managed the sickness and I tried to stay busy bouldering and cooking good food. Then it snowed for 3 days and I was left to read, cook, drink mate and try not to go to stir crazy while waiting for the snow and gardia to go away. With antibiotics James recovered in a few days but the snow persisted. Regardless we organized food and gear and set up our advanced camp at around 4200m at the base of the Khane Glacier. Two days later we set out for our first objective, Twin Peak II.
Twin Peak II cannot be seen from down in the valley as Meligo blocks the view. During our exploring adventure early on it came into view and I wanted to climb it. The north face was covered in ice and snow and approximately 1000m long. We set up a bivy camp and planned to start moving by 4am. We started out slogging through the knee-deep snow up 200m to the base of some friendly yet steep seracs. 
We then climbed 3 long pitches of brittle 85 degree glacial ice to a small glacial plateau. We again slogged to an ice and snow ramp that lead us up to the upper headwall. Climbing on precarious snow cover rock and thin ice for a few hundred meters brought us to a beautiful 300m, 75 degree section of neve that we simultaneously climbed. At the top of the neve was another steep section and then more precarious snow. Reaching 5000m for the first time, I was feeling the effects! As we climbed the next few hundred meters the sun started to set and our pace, mine especially, decreased. Around 200m from the summit we decided to retreat, rappelling for several hours before staggering back to our bivy and falling asleep.
The next day was the first sun we had seen in 5 days. We slowly made our way back to our base-camp to eat and rest before heading back into the hills for an alpine capsule style attempt on Tangra Tower’s 900m south face. With our gear in place we just needed the window!
 After a nice day and a half of rest we headed up to Tangra. We made our way to the base of the wall and got established just as the sun was setting. Being late September/early October the nights were quite cold and we decided to wait for the sun to climb. This slowed us down for sure as we climbed for around 6hrs each day. 

We also under-estimated how much fuel we would need and this ultimately forced us to turn back before reaching the summit. After using the last of our fuel and getting worked on the squeeze chimney after 12 pitches of C2 5.10+ we opted to go down and return to Khane Village for warm food and incredible Balti hospitality!
Huge Thanks to MEC, LOWA Footwear, Mountain Equipment, Gore-Tex, V12 Outdoor, The Mount Everest Foundation and the British Mountaineering Council for their support! 
Photo's by James Montpenny and Max Fisher
After traveling back to India I headed to meet up with Ashlie while James went para-gliding in Bir India. Ash and I headed into the Indian Garwhal for a 14 day motorcycle/mountaineering adventure. We started in Ranikhet at the NOLS India branch where we were meet with wonderful hospitality and a relaxed environment!

Once we had our food and gear all sorted we said good bye and headed north to Badrinath, a holy Hindi town and walked into the hills there for 9 days. Here are some of our photos.

Photo's by Ashlie Ferguson and Max Fisher

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

From Pleasure to Work and Back Again

Opening new boxes of gear, getting vaccinations, researching different areas to learn to para-glide in India/Nepal, packing gear and visiting friends and family have been the happenings since finishing work 8 days ago. So before I get to caught up in India's rustle and bustle here is an update from my spring and summer.

After all the sweet sweet ice climbing in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia I traveled to Chamonix, France for a month of alpine climbing with James Monypenny were we climbed numerous long, fun routes and started planning for our trip to Pakistan.

 Photo by James Monypenny
James put in a huge amount of energy into this and we have received support from: Lowa, Mountain Equipment, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Gore-Tex, British Mountainerrin Council, Cilogear, and The Mount Everst Foundation. Thanks to all you for the support!!

After my return home from Chamonix I flew to Vancouver to meet up with Ashlie. We got in a few days of climbing in Squamish and then headed to the Yukon for a summer of work and play.

My first adventure was getting dropped off in Skagway AK by Ashlie and our friends Meredith and Chris. I then jumped on a ferry to Haines AK to meet up with Erik Bonnett for another trip into Koosdakhaa Spire. We headed in on May 18th, again via sky plane with Drake Olson, and on May 19th-20th we made a successful ascent of Koosdakhaa Spire. 
Our route was sustained 5.10-5.11 climbing for 14 pitches. It took us 33hours to reach the summit and another 5hours to get back to our camp. We named the route Otter Water Boogie Man 5.11- A1 V 600m. When spent a few days resting and then moved to another climbing objective. This time we climbed for 16hours and climbed a new route called Lichening Bolt Buttress 5.11- IV 400m. Shortly after we found ourselves descending to Skagway via the Nourse River Valley. The river was 

awesome! Sporting continuous class 2-3 & the random class 4 rapid for 30km to the Taiya River confluence and then into the ocean close to Skagway. We both were exceedingly happy with our trip especially after all the hard work we put in last year in this same area!!

Soon after our trip Erik headed back to California and I was in Whitehorse with Ashlie and getting ready for my first NOLS course of the summer. We hiked for 12 days in the Pelly Mountains and the paddled on the Finlayson and Frances Rivers to the community of Upper Liard. We covered 70km of hiking and 300km of canoeing. 

On our day off Jamie and I paddled the Tutshi River, which is the classic creek run outside Whitehorse. It was an awesome class 4-4+ run with good flows.... I have to say it was great to get back in a kayak!!
With my day off behind me I was back to work. This time getting ready for a 35day Mountaineering/Whitewater canoeing course. This is the first course of its type and I was happy to be apart of it! We traveled through the Logan Mountains just outside of Nahanni National Park for 70km over small pocket glaciers and climb numerous peaks. We then put on the Little Hyland/Hyland Rivers and paddled and lined our way 410km to the Alaska/Canadian Highway.
Once again, another incredible summer in Canada's Yukon Territory! We saw the northern lights, caught numerous fish, saw several moose and caribou, were bluff charged by a Grizzly and got to experience the moody weather the north offers year after year! Thanks to Evan, Sam, Arthur, Erik, Ashlie, Jamie and Kate for paddling awesome whitewater, portaging canoes, cooking awesome food, climbing a bunch pf rocks and sharing a tent for numerous days! And to all our students for working hard and having fun in one of the coolest places on Earth!

This Thrusday Ashlie and I will be off to India to meet up with James to start the move to the Karakorum. Ashlie will be stopping in Northern India to do a yoga teacher training and we will meet up there after James and I are finished climbing in Pakistan.

All photo's taken by Max Fisher unless otherwise noted.